Spacer: I’m having a hard time processing a confession from my best friend. I am looking at him differently and I’m worried that’s unfair.

My best friend confessed to me last night that when he and his brother were early teens (11 and 13, or 12 and 14) they fondled each other a few times. He says it was always just mutual exploring by two curious teenage boys, and it only happened a few times over a few months.

Because he was the oldest (by 18 months), though, I’m having all these feelings that maybe that was abuse of his brother. My brain even went to wondering if my best friend was a pedophile. He swears he’s never remotely had any kind of desire like that. I’ve never seen anything to suggest he likes anything other than adult women; he’s had a pretty healthy dating life and I stumbled on his fairly vanilla porn stash in college.

Am I severely overreacting? Is it normal for siblings to do some of their exploring together? Is 18 months not enough of an age difference to create a real power dynamic?

ETA: My mom was sexually abused by an uncle when she was a child, and raised me to basically fear that every man would sexually abuse children, so I know I bring some real baggage to the situation. Still, my best friend teaches elementary aged kids and so all my baggage is seeing this confession as a red flag for some greater problem.

I don’t know, I don’t want to think these awful things about my best friend, but I don’t know if my fear is justified.